Campaign Mug Shot
Pitching your campaign
Amid several other distractions, I’ve been progressing sporadically with updating my Trid campaign, for use with Chimera Basic. It’s a revised revision, meaning that what I had written and posted three months ago is no longer entirely accurate.
I have a number of new ideas for the campaign, most of which break away from the setting’s original incarnation: high-fantasy D&D based on B/X and the Rules Cyclopedia. Having devised a more cynical world view in the years since, and being eager to incorporate new elements into my game, I’m going for more of a fantasy/sci-fi mix.
But that can mean a lot of different things, depending on your own gaming background, literary experience, movie preferences, etc. So what about something along the lines of an elevator pitch for the campaign?
The details of an elevator pitch are explained elsewhere, but the concept refers to an idea or proposal that one could deliver in the time it takes to ride an elevator. (If you work on the 2nd floor like me, you’re screwed, because you have only about 8 seconds. But if you’re lucky enough to have an office with a view, or you’re one of the Jeffersons, you could have as long as a minute.)
The idea works well for a new campaign because you want to provide your audience (including potential players) with a quick summary that conveys the setting’s trappings, what characters they might play, and what kinds of dangers those characters could face.
Of course, some settings are easier to describe than others, and that depends largely on how well-known your campaign’s foundation is. As a thought experiment try to describe a book or movie to someone who hasn’t seen it. For example, if you say “Sherlock Holmes is about a master sleuth solving crimes in Victorian London.” Pretty easy, mostly because Sherlock Holmes is a well-known character. But even if audience members weren’t familiar with Holmes, chances are they have a decent idea of Victorian London in their heads, and the resulting imagery forms a suitable basis for other trappings.
On the other hand, saying “Star Wars is about the struggle of an oppressed people against an evil empire,” is true, but incomplete–it doesn’t provide enough information for listeners to get a picture of the setting or the characters in it, or what those characters can do. No mention of space opera, star ships, Jedi Knights, droids, or the Force. Not that you couldn’t (or wouldn’t) add these details, but you have to do so in a coherent manner if you want to avoid confusion and keep your audience focused.
The Campaign Pitch
As a result of persistent and unmanageable OCD, I propose a 3-paragraph format for Campaign Pitches:
- Paragraph #1: History, or what caused the setting to become what it is today? Don’t worry about places, names, or dates. This is about truly earth-changing events in the setting’s pre- or ancient history.
- Paragraph #2: The Current State, or what’s going on in the world as a result of the history you described in paragraph #1?
- Paragraph #3: The Role of Adventurers, or what do characters get up to in the current state you describe in paragraph #2?
I suggest limiting the entire pitch to between 150 and 200 words. And, unless you’re creating a campaign set in an existing book or movie, resist the temptation to invoke the name of said book or movie as a descriptor. In other words, if you’re creating a space opera campaign, don’t describe it as being “like Star Wars” unless it’s actually set in the Star Wars universe.
Anyone reading the pitch should have a good idea of what types of characters they can play, what sort of missions they might undertake, and what kinds of dangers the environment holds. Nothing in great detail, but certainly enough to build upon as players generate characters, explore the setting, and get a few adventures under their belts.
Here’s an example of the pitch for Trid:
In the Before Times, man dwelt under the Elders, a wise and prosperous race of demi-gods. But man’s grasp exceeded his reach, and in his desire for power and independence, he unleashed The Spread, which killed or mutated whomever it touched. Only those who sought safety in the depths of the earth survived. Man spent the Lost Years underground. After generations, man emerged to find the world much changed.
It is the New Time, and man struggles to reclaim the world he abandoned ages ago. Savage perils, twisted by The Spread, lay claim to the surface and infest man’s abandoned ruins, the earth yields little, and the Elders are gone. Warlords and sorcerers–wielding powers gleaned from The Spread–fight for resources, surrounded by rapacious sub-men, mutated predators, deviant survivor cults, and disciples of the Farflung, abstruse alien visitors of unknown origin or intent.
In this broken world, adventurers seek the employ of brutal warlords and aberrant sorcerers, solicit the favour of squabbling survivor cults, or scour the wilderness for fertile land. Life is mean, dismal, and grasping, but for these bold and vainglorious few, better a foolish risk than resignation; better to die commanding your fate than to live in fear.
But the real proof is in the pudding. What images does this pitch conjure up for you?